Sometimes feelings seem like a facts. They feel intense and real. One definition of fact is “a truth known by actual experience or observation; something known to be true.” One way of describing this is something we could record on a phone. Another definition is “something that actually exists; reality; truth.”
Telling the difference between a fear and a fact can prove difficult for even the most brilliant humans. Fear is a feeling that can be felt based on something real or imagined. If a tiger is chasing me I may feel fear for my life. The fact is the tiger is chasing me. The feeling is fear. I may feel fear when I think about a tiger chasing me. The fact then is I’m imagining something. The fear is still a feeling. I cannot record my imagination on my phone, but I could record a tiger actually chasing me.
When we can separate feelings from facts, we can find some freedom. When I remind myself the fact that the nearest tiger to me is safely locked up at the zoo, my feelings about the threat of impending doom might shift. The fact is the risk of being attacked by a tiger while sitting in my living room is minuscule.
When a loved one dies, we may feel sadness, grief, remorse, or anger. These are not facts. The fact is that person is no longer in a living body. The fact is we will not see them in physical form again in this lifetime. We may have feelings in response to the facts, but the feelings themselves are not facts.
As humans, we are meaning making machines. We make up stories to make sense of the world around us. When someone cuts us off on the freeway, we might make up they are a jerk, or they are in a hurry, or they are a bad driver. The truth is that they cut us off. We make up the rest of it. The stories we spin can spur feelings. If someone cuts me off and I make up they are on their way to deliver a baby, I may feel excitement for them. If I make up they are a jerk, I may feel anger. The fact that I was cut off is the same in both scenarios, but one results in feelings of excitement while the other results in anger.
When you are filled with feelings of grief, anger, fear, or joy, it may feel like a fact. It may feel like it will last forever. Feelings are temporary. They come and go just like the changing tides.
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